The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Line) Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
Algernon: Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility. (I.17)
In an inversion of conventional thinking, Algernon thinks lower classes should set a moral example for the upper classes like the aristocracy. Apparently, he thinks the higher classes are corrupt, but it seems as though he has no problem with its hypocrisy.
Lady Bracknell: I'm sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I was obliged to call on dear Lady Harbury. I hadn't been there since her poor husband's death. I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger. (I.111)
Lady Bracknell’s need to mention that Lady Harbury "looks quite twenty years young" "since her poor husband’s death" reveals the ridiculous need to gossip.
Lady Bracknell: I'm sure the programme will be delightful, after a few expurgations. French songs I cannot possibly allow. People always seem to think that they are improper, and either look shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, which is worse. But German sounds a thoroughly respectable language, and indeed, I believe is so. (I.132)
After French Revolution, the English aristocracy was afraid of the same thing happening at home. So the English did everything in their power to suppress French influence. For Lady Bracknell, this includes omitting French music from her party programs.
Her move has nothing to do with the respectability of the French language or the aesthetic value of French music—although she tries to make it sound like it does—but with the political implications that anything French carries with it.